Settling into a new academic environment has been enjoyable thus far, but not quite what I was expecting. I’m taking two courses — Major Debates in Film Theory and Classics of Children’s Literature. Yes, I must shamefully admit that my biggest motivation for taking an English course about children’s literature was the hope that it would not be too much reading. In my defense, I’m only living abroad for a few months, so I do not want to spend all my time in the library. However, I was served some poetic justice for attempting to cut academic corners when, on the first day of class, my professor handed out a syllabus that was a whopping 62 pages long. I cried a little inside.
I want to break down the basics of how academics differ at the University of Exeter. For my modules (classes), I generally have two or three assignments that make up the entirety of my grade. I have many friends who take one exam at the end of term which determines their entire grade. This means a lot less busy work in the interim periods when papers or presentations are not due. However, it also means a lot more pressure to succeed on each assignment. But weeks without much work leave time for three important things — exploring Exeter with friends, nightlife and Netflix.
So far, I have thoroughly enjoyed Classics of Children’s Literature. My professor is brilliant — he casually mentioned that President Barack Obama was his classmate at Columbia. Despite his brilliance, he knows how to keep it real. Since it’s a third year course — higher education is generally three years in the UK — he told our class on the first day that we should enjoy our last term of university by not stressing about grades and by going out with our friends a lot. Luckily for me, it’s not my last term of college, but I’m going to take his advice. Far be it from me to question a professor who suggests going to the pub
The module is a lot of work. We’re reading three children’s novels a week. While it’s not exactly Proust, the novels each range from 250 to 400 pages, so my plan has definitely failed. However, the class is stimulating, and the professor goes off on amusing tangents about the perfection that is Meryl Streep and how Benedict Cumberbatch is overrated. For the record, I only agree with the former statement. Yesterday, my professor listed every Disney animated film in chronological order. It had absolutely nothing to do with what we were discussing, but it was an impressive three-minute digression.
The film module has been delightful. The two professors that run the course are young and passionate about film. We’ve watched some great films and some not-so-great films. Last week, we watched a seven-minute sequence of an empty movie theater. Riveting stuff, I know. It’s probably the only time I’ve ever questioned my major.
There are some other key differences between Exeter and the College of William and Mary. One class only meets once a week for three hours. Another class meets for a total of ten hours a week at various times and in different buildings — there is no Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Thursday consistency. The ten hours of class account for lectures, seminars, screenings and workshops. Sometimes the dates and times will change, so I have to check my timetable every week. In fact, I had to interrupt the writing of this blog because my seminar discussion of “28 Days Later” was moved ahead a day. Another difference is that when you write a paper, instead of turning it in to your professor, you turn it into the College of Humanities, who then gives it to the professor. To get it back, you pick it up again from the College of Humanities.
Unrelated, but I saw a William and Mary bumper sticker today. It just proves that twamps are everywhere.